Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sixth Grade Waldorf: Astronomy

Tides and the moon, chalk pastel

We had so much fun with this block; we could've just kept going, I think. Just sitting outside staring up at the stars—wondering and imagining—made for a refreshing, creative block. It was fun, incorporating Greek/Roman myths (constellations), explorers (navigation), and just plain old observation, watching the sky spin 'round the earth. (Yes, I know it's the earth that spins, but it seems the other way around. No wonder early philosophers thought everything revolved around Earth.)

The main resource I used was Kovac's "Geology and Astronomy," supplemented with appropriate library books to expand on the chapter topics:
    Stars, Seymour Simon
    Find the Constellations, H. A. Rey
    The Moon Book, Gail Gibbons
    Sky Phenomena,  Norman Davidson

 Following are some of our Astronomical studies and activities:

The making of Stickhenge.
At noon on the December solstice, we ventured outside to a small clearing to hammer a garden post into the ground. We then marked where the shadow of the post fell, inserting a stick at the topmost point of the stake's shadow. That evening we returned and using the post as a visual reference point, we marked the direction in which the sun set, again inserting a stick into the ground in the line of sight from the stake to the point on the horizon in which the sun set. And then we did it all over again. A lot.

This was a long term project, being updated weekly from winter to summer solstice. Eventually we pulled out all of the markers except the ones marking the two solstices and spring equinox. (Some weeks there seemed to be no movement, others the shadows would just "jump") In this way we "illustrated" the movement of the sun through the months. If I were a morning person, we would have marked the sunrises as well, creating a more circular pattern, like Stonehenge. But I am not a morning person, and neither is the Boy. So we opted for 1/2 of Stickhenge. Good enough.

Movement of the sun from southwest to northwest over a six month period.

Lengthening of shadows over a six month period.
Planetarium visit:
The York County Astronomical Society operates a planetarium out of an old high school,  offering shows once a month. We observed a show about the winter solstice, including some of the history of solstice celebrations, and a show regarding what we should be seeing in our local winter sky.

We also visited our middle son at school during a parent's weekend, where they had a planetarium show about constellations, and tricks on how to find them.

My favorite part! We have a fire circle in a small clearing in our back acre. (An acre that we've been naturalizing over the past 10 years). It is the perfect place to light a toasty fire and just gaze up at the stars. That college planetarium show (above) proved very helpful as we looked for the M-shape of Andromeda, the rectangle of Gemini, the belt of Orion, and others. Finding the North Star is a breeze, if you can find the dippers!

We studied the moon phases, tides, equinoxes and solstices, the zodiac (from an astronomical view, not astrological, although some may want to incorporate that), comets and asteroids, position of the planets, and a bit about navigating with stars.

Here are some excerpt from the Boy's main lesson book:

The Moon, colored pencil

Hercules, metallic sharpie

Rotation around the north star

The Solar System, chalk pastel


Shooting Stars, chalk pastel
The zodiac


1 comment:

  1. This looks like a fun block! I enjoyed reading about Stickhenge (I am not a morning person either :o)) I think we might try that when the time comes. I love the chalk pastel drawings. Beautiful. Thanks for posting. Cathy


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